Road Debris - More Than a Bump in the Road

Monday, May 5, 2014


Rock slide
Even if you are a good driver who takes due care on the roads, there are some accidents that result from circumstances beyond your control. Debris on Canadian roads can be problematic for drivers. Ten years ago the American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated that around five Canadians died and over 600 were injured as a direct consequence of road debris per year.

The occasional news reports on deaths caused by road debris suggest this is an area in dire need of prioritization. 

In 2010, a Calgary driver was killed when a semi-trailer drove over a piece of a brake drum and resulting in crashing into a windshield of a passing vehicle, killing the driver.  In the first eight months after the opening of Stoney Trail in Calgary, the road crew reported picking up 1,080 pieces of road debris. 

It is estimated that most of the objects found on our roads are pieces of cargo that are not secured properly on trailers, roof racks and pickup trucks. This is obviously avoidable. It is a legal offense to drive with a poorly secured load, so every Canadian driver that drives with such a load can be fined. Since we now know that road debris kills, we should all take some responsibility and report road debris.

Drivers should understand that their vehicles can send objects through the windows of other vehicles if they drive over them. The best way to deal with such a situation is to brake slowly and drive over the object at a lower speed.

Road debris is not only dangerous when it is picked up and thrown by vehicles, drivers can also injure themselves if they swerve to avoid objects on the road. As such, the presence of debris on our roads provides another reason for drivers to drive at or below the speed limit. If you drive slowly, you can spot it and brake. If you drive too fast, you will see it but will not have enough time to avoid it safely.

The government cannot take all the responsibility for keeping debris off our roads. They can remove it once we have placed it on the roads, but the ultimate responsibility is ours to make sure we aren’t contributing to the road debris problem, and also, to report it if we do see it.